If you’re trying to draw me offsides

[Part 1]

[Part 2]

… it just may work.

Here’s the deal, boys. I am not making assertions about the cause or potential implications of global warming one way or the other. The fact that my unwillingness to take a side is disturbing to people is, well, a little confounding to me. I’m not a Republican, a fan of corporations, or a Halliburton stock holder. I am for us doing whatever we can do to be better stewards of the earth as long as doing so doesn’t injure other humans (a post for another day).

I’m just a skeptic, kids. I’m not convinced people are this smart or this objective or this in command of the past, present, and future trends of our planet. If history and science prove one thing about our ability to know with any certainty what’s going on, it’s that we’re almost always wrong the first, second, and third time around, at least with regard to some significant part of our conclusions. There has been scientific consensus about warming before. And cooling. And warming. And cooling. And that’s just in the last hundred years or so.

The very fact that everyone sneers and scoffs at anyone who would suggest we don’t know for certain that warming is real, catastrophic, and clearly anthropogenic makes me even more suspicious. There are very few better reasons (for me) to question the certainty of something than having everyone smirk and say, "Everyone knows that…" I assume I don’t need to start listing the various "everyone knows" statements that time and new science have proven to be utterly laughable.

But wait, we’re talking about science. The vast majority of scientists agree that we’re all responsible for overheating the earth. Ah yes, science. What does science say about the existence of a creating, active deity? What do the overwhelming majority of scientists believe about my claim the Spirit of this all knowing, all powerful God lives inside me? About miracles? About immaculate conceptions? Physical resurrections?

Science is useful, but my trust in it is incomplete and conditional. I even believe we can and should see some re-merging of faith and science. Bring it on. Just please don’t shake your head at me pitifully when I don’t acquiesce to the majority of scientists or to popular consensus.

There’s something at work here that I have to mention, but which I do not intend as an accusation toward anyone in particular, certainly not anyone posting here. That something is this: the failure of the religious establishment to take good care of people or the planet does not obligate those of us who consider ourselves more progressive followers of Jesus to pledge ourselves to popular political, environmental, or charitable causes. In fact, we must not do so until and unless we have tested those agendas with discernment in the Spirit, asking whether they manifest the Kingdom and whether they make good sense (the first, frankly, being more important than the second). Determining that they do not does not make us heartless or indifferent to the real world. It makes us more able to actually follow Jesus as He brings love, justice, and healing to that real world, and less prone to accepting meager substitutes for that all-consuming invasion of redemption.

Once again, I am not shaking that stick at anyone accusingly, at least no more than I’m shaking at myself. I am concerned that we all (author included) are tempted to settle for what appears good, even if it’s not our actual calling. And, lest there be any doubt, I do not condone or encourage individual indifference or religious blindness on these issues. This cuts both ways.

As for the science and reality of warming, my intent is not to suggest that I believe those who promote or believe the consensus view are wrong; only that they are capable of being wrong. It’s a scandalous suggestion, I know, and it is both unpopular and, in the religion of popular opinion, heretical. If you believe they are correct, I have no problem with you. I simply encourage everyone to season their belief in either direction with a healthy portion of "this is our current best guess." And at the risk of offending, I wonder if being easily taken aback by those who question or oppose popular opinion might mean you haven’t done that; that you have, instead, made absolute and incontrovertible fact out of current consensus. I think it’s also fair to note that, in the finer print, most of the scientific theory supporting the consensus doesn’t even express that degree of certainty and instead uses words like "strong evidence" rather than "absolute proof" or "very likely" rather than "conclusively." Of course, no one is under any obligation to take my advice.

I post the following at the risk of starting precisely what I do not wish to start here, and I warn you that I will spam anyone who goes down the road of trying to "out-peer-review" someone else on my blog. My intent here is to make the very mild and factual point that it’s not just me, Dick Cheney, Homer Simpson, and a handful of crack addicts who don’t embrace the prevailing viewpoints without caveat or question.

Please note that home anywhere does not endorse any of these people or their opinions. We do not assert that they are correct; merely that they exist. Again, please do not occupy the space below trying to controvert any of these people. That is unnecessary as it is not my point to promote any particular agendas or scientific conclusions. These scientists and their ideas are subject to the same skepticism and ability to be wrong as the others. It just seems en vogue to pretend these folks either don’t exist or that they work for big oil. Everyone who exists deserves, at least, to be acknowledged as actually existing. So call me an activist for actual existence.

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Toy worlds collide

We are spending a few days with my family (parents, brothers, and various spouses, girlfriends, and offspring) this week at my parents’ house. Yesterday Ella Grace turned two, and we had a little party for her and Jessie Rose, Will’s oldest who will also be two in a few weeks.

Eg1       Jr1

One of Aiden’s favorite parts of coming here is that my parents have saved boxes of my (and my brothers’) old toys. The second we pile out of the car, he’s headed straight for "Daddy’s toys." A few minutes ago, I looked up and saw this:

At1

Notice the players in this scene: Luke and unmasked Darth Vader/Anakin (these are Aiden’s new toys, even though they would seem to fit in the previous generation of toys also represented here), hairless Playmobil guy with gun, Polly Pockets (one of Ella’s birthday presents), and a Fisher Price jet in the background. Apparently Polly had committed some treasonous act (being a girl, I suspect), and the others were there to haul her off to the clink.

Dear God, please make it stop.
(or Why Al Gore can’t save the world – Part 2)

[Part One here – reading this will help you think I’m less mean and more green (maybe).]

I’ve never really claimed to be a tolerant guy. I try, I really do, and I think I’m far more patient and humble than I used to be when it comes to interacting with the rest of the world. So, I ask that you extend me some grace as I peel back the more presentable layers and let you see some of the battle that still rages beneath my winsome smile and bubbly personality.

I’m not all that patriotic these days. Don’t get me wrong – I mean no insult to those who have toiled over the centuries to provide me the opportunity to live a life of relative freedom and prosperity. I’m grateful for those folks, truly. I’m also not opposed to the idea that drives our patriotism. It’s not my life’s mantra, and my core loyalties lie elsewhere, but I believe much of that American idea is rooted in the deep hunger for freedom and joy that rages in the soul of every man, woman, and child. I affirm that hunger and admire men and women who chase that dream with passion and resolve. I’m also not about to descend into a Sean Penn-ish rant on how embarrassed I am by the president and his henchmen. I am, perhaps to a fault, still largely indifferent to the political charade, be it national or global.

No, most of my lack of patriotic enthusiasm is rooted in my growing sense of what my life is and is not about. I’ve written about those things some here before. I simply can’t find the will to expend much energy on the advance of temporary kingdoms and perishing agendas. Call me a religious nut if you will; I’ll just take my chances with the hope of a Real Life that redeems our paltry attempts at goodness and devours the evil that incessantly marches against our hearts and souls.

That’s all true of me, even if the fruits of my life still tend to lag behind the conviction of my spirit in these matters. So I submit the following as less of an agenda and more of a confession: there is another, less admirable, reason for my reluctance to slap the "American Proud" bumper stickers on my non-functioning 1993 Toyota Camry with the busted side view mirror and passenger window. I find the prevailing, defining characteristics of our culture to be rather embarrassing, namely our addiction to affluence and obsession with celebrity. These things, at least as much as democracy, capitalism, and apple pie, mark the American Spirit as it is perceived (rightly) by folks beyond our borders. I’m certainly not innocent of these sins; I just want to violently shake them from every cell in my body.

So what triggered this little rant and what does it have to do with Al Gore and his new Rock-Star-Superhero status? (This is where I get mean and unpleasant, but hopefully it will just last a paragraph or two.)

Live Earth. Did you see this? I didn’t, but I’ve indirectly encountered some of the subsequent hype. Every year or two, someone decides it would be a good idea to put together a big rock show to promote their current agenda. Farm Aid. Live Aid. Live8. Now Live Earth. At least the names are creative.

Ny_algore_ap_400
In one hand is the key to a new
Prius; in the other the key to my
lockbox.

Listen, I’m a big fan of both the earth and of music. Lots of the bands and artists that show up for these gigs are favorites of mine. I’m for them playing their music live, whatever the reason. It’s just a bizarre scene to have many of the world’s wealthiest and least-in-touch-with-normal-life all showing up to sing songs and put on shows in the name of changing the world, usually "for the sake of" people who live well below the mark of the normal-life that these rich, famous folks aren’t in touch with. Seriously. Is anyone buying this? It’s not that I haven’t noticed this phenomenon before, but Live Earth may have set a new standard in the "When is the punchline coming?" vibe at these shows.

Case in point: Yesterday, I dozed off watching something on TV. When I woke up a few minutes later, the show had changed and one of these celeb-worship shows that are broadcast directly from the headquarters of hell was on Extra, Access Hollywood something like that. They were whipping through the highlights of the weekend’s orgy of famous people with a cause, and I was groggily trying to locate the remote control to kill the box. Before I could succeed, I was informed that Cameron Diaz not only drives a hybrid car to reduce her emissions but she also announced from the Live Earth stage (I swear I’m not making this up) that she turns off the water in her shower while she shaves her legs. Do I really have to do this? Are there actually adults in this country who will (a) say these kinds of things in public, (b) listen to these kinds of things without choking on their $9 bottles of Ethos water*, (c) report these things to thousands of viewers, and (d) see this on the tee-vee without throwing a large, heavy object at their the screen? The answer, apparently, tragically, is yes.

I can’t even bring myself to point out the many ridiculous angles of this. Like whether Cameron demands to use hybrid limos wherever she goes or whether she demands to fly in hybrid private jets. Like whether she shaves her legs often enough without the shower running to offset the amount of water used in her large homes and large swimming pools. I can’t do it.

And this stuff is everywhere. Today I made the mistake of looking through a few celebrity playlists in iTunes. It seemed nearly every song choice was made because the song(s) spoke about the awful wrongs being perpetrated on us all by the new and coming corporate America or the oil companies or the blah, blah, blah. This from actors who are making multiple-millions for and from some of the world’s largest and most aggressive corporations with every film they make (not to mention that this ranting was being delivered via an iTunes celebrity playlist, the sole purpose of which is to generate more revenue for Apple, Inc.)

Ny_kanye_getty_400_2
Kanye drops a shocker on the Live
Earth crowd: "George Bush doesn’t
care about earth people."

Hey, I’m as paranoid as the next guy, and I have no love for corporations, governments, or other large machines that ultimately exist to self-sustain with me and you as fuel. John Cusack is probably right about that stuff. He’s just a flaming hypocrite who is either incredibly stupid, tragically lacking in self awareness, or brazenly arrogant. Or all three. It’s insanity, but we’ve so tolerated and applauded it that it’s become a sort of collective cultural lunacy.

I’m not saying Bono or Al Gore shouldn’t put on big concerts to push what they believe. I’m not saying John Cusack shouldn’t speak out against corporate power or wars. I’m just asking them to either quit pushing agendas that their lives fundamentally and dramatically oppose or, at least, be as honest as most of us common folk in saying, "This seems really important to me, but I haven’t figured out how to modify my life to reflect that, and I’m not entirely sure I care enough to change how I live – just enough to run my mouth about it." Seriously, I’d stand and applaud anyone from Paris Hilton to Bill O’Reilly to Alec Baldwin if they’d be that honest.

These folks are the uber-consumers. Most of them own multiple homes that dwarf mine or yours and fly from continent to continent once a month while you and I might do that once a decade. They have heated pools and air conditioned tour buses. They make millions from their work on expensive sets and elaborate stages littered with energy gulping light shows, sound systems, and film gear. They travel with entourages and are a never ending source of creativity when it comes to redefining inefficiency. So what better way to raise awareness of global warming and environmental irresponsibility (who have we missed at this point that we need to raise awareness anyway?) than to bring all these earth-scorchers together for a massive trash producing, earth stomping rock concert where they can lecture us about buying more efficient light bulbs and using public transportation? Talk about the assault on reason. I only wish the big screens at these shows would have included a scoreboard of sorts showing how many average Joes and Janes in the crowd would have to change their lifestyle to offset the massive consumption and pollution of the celebrity on stage at the moment (who wouldn’t be caught dead using public transportation). That would have been environmentally responsible and honest. And that’s the goal, after all, right? Honesty. Responsibility. Right?

Which brings me back to our friend Al and his quest to keep the planet from melting. As I said before, I don’t know whether or not he’s right about climate change. I think it’s possible, but certainly not certain. I also think it’s worth talking about how we better care for the world we’ve been given even if the oceans aren’t in danger of boiling in the near future. I just don’t think it’s going to happen on any meaningful scale, and here’s why: We love how we live too much. We’re too far gone in this lifestyle of consumption and conquering to turn back now. You. Me. Al. All of us. Funny (in a we-may-all-go-to-hell-for-this kind of way), isn’t it, that those early mega-benefit-rock-star-fests were aimed at getting poor folks in Africa to live more like us, and the new campaign can’t succeed unless we all suddenly become willing to live more like those poor folks in Africa? Anyone think that’s likely?

Uk_spinaltap1_400
Nothing lends credibility to an
earth-shattering cause like an
appearance by Spinal Tap….

It’s been well documented that Al’s Tennessee homestead consumes something like twenty times the energy of the average American home. The nuances of that have been fodder for folks on both sides for a few months now. Some say he’s irresponsible and completely hypocritical. Others say he lives a different life than the average American, his home has 20 rooms so it requires more power (that his consumption isn’t out of scale per square foot), and that he voluntarily pays more for power because he’s installed some alternative power production methods on his home.

Uk_pussycatdolls2_400
…except maybe an appearance by
the Pussycat Dolls
.

Whatever. I’m not interested in skewering him over this fact, but there is one thing he can’t escape he punctuates An Inconvenient Truth (and much of his subsequent campaign) with the question: Are you ready to change the way you live? I’m fair and gracious enough to recognize that Al lives a different kind of life. But here’s the deal, and there’s really no way around it at some point we can’t ask people to do what we aren’t willing to do ourselves.

Ny_leo_al_ap_400_2
Leo and Al: Saving the earth one
mansion at a time

Does Al need twenty rooms? Maybe, but is he ready to change the way he lives? Does he need spacious quarters for security personnel? Maybe (Are there more people that want to see Al dead than, say, people who want to see me dead? Almost certainly, though I pissed a lot of people off in high
school), but is he ready to change the way he lives?

This is my point. Even most of the folks willing to speak the loudest about global warming aren’t willing to dramatically change the way they live. Whatever the reason for all of Al’s energy consumption, he has convinced himself that he needs that lifestyle more than he needs to reduce his energy consumption to match mine. And if that’s true for Al, it’s certainly true for most of the bandwagoning celebrities who are now hanging out in his "green" room.

To be fair, I don’t know that famous people are any more guilty of loving money than the rest of us they just do it with more flair. With few exceptions, the American dream has its claws just as deeply in me and you. Some folks smarter than me did a little homework on the American sentiment toward money and material wealth and produced a PBS special (then a book) called Affluenza. A few hightlights:

  • The average American shops six hours a week but spends only 40 minutes playing with his/her children;
  • By age 20, the average TV viewer has seen one million commercials;
  • Recently more Americans declared bankruptcy than graduated college;
  • In 90 percent of divorce cases, arguments about money are a primary issue.

The show and book conclude by arguing against materialism not on a moral basis, but on a pragmatic basis. Empirical evidence proves conclusively that money and possessions do not make people happy. But they sure have our attention.

A.W. Tozer writes this about our condition:

Within the human heart things have taken over. Men have now by nature no peace within heir hearts, for God is crowned there no longer, but there in the moral dusk stubborn and aggressive usurpers fight among themselves for the first place on the throne. This is not a mere metaphor, but an accurate analysis of our real spiritual trouble. There is within the human heart a tough, fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets things with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns my and mine look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution.

This is why Al Gore can’t save the world. It’s not because he didn’t get enough rock stars in his corner. It’s not because he’s not persuasive enough or thin enough or cool enough. It’s not even because he’s not right enough. It’s because we would rather die a thousand other deaths than experience the death of material security, comfort, and convenience.  It’s because, like the rest of us, Al is up against "a tough, fibrous root…whose nature is to possess" and not to sacrifice. This root can be extracted, of course, but not by movies or movements or festivals. This root only dies as an otherworldly Kingdom advances through his soul and mine.

I don’t offer this as justification for my inaction or as an argument against living a life that is more environmentally friendly. I actually believe we can and should do more to live simple, clean, efficient lives. My point is that we’re fighting the wrong battle first, and the cult of celebrity is unlikely to lead us out of the desert unless they decide to lead the way in another campaign one to pry ourselves from the seductive arms of material security. If I were you, I wouldn’t save my money for tickets to that rock show. The lineup is likely to suck.

*I am also in favor of clean water for people all over the world.

________________________________

Recommended reading:

Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic
Just Generosity
The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need
The High Price of Materialism
Born to Buy: The Commericalized Child and the New Consumer Culture
The Irresistible Revolution
Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger

[Part 3 of this series of posts]

The slow crawl of people making my life easier

Well, it’s officially been two months since my last post (which was more of a non-post, really). I’ve generally tried to at least not have vacant months, but I managed to skip June altogether. However, I confess that of all the blog material I read, people blogging about why they don’t blog or how they want to blog more ranks within a few slots of the bottom of my list entitled, "Things I’m glad I spent my time reading online." No offense intended to anyone who does that unless, of course, me offending you causes you to do that less. Anyway, I’ve done it. And now I’m not doing it, but instead writing about other people doing it. Bored yet? I am.

I might soon post with some more personal updates about what’s up with our fascinating family, but right now I need to address something far more consequential: advancements (or lack thereof) in consumer product convenience technology. By this I mean: Did it really escape us for decades that you could use a flip cap on a toothpaste tube? Was the twist-off bottle cap really a revelation that eluded the beverage industry until the 1980’s? The condiment squirt bottle — were we not smart enough to figure this one out in the 1970’s? We aren’t talking complicated circuitry here – these are a matter of simple mechanics. Every time I see one of these little developments come down the line, my first question is, "Someone just figured that out?" Yeah, I’m that guy.

My current beef is with the folks at Dr. Pepper. I am baffled how people who produce such a fine sipping soda can’t manage to put together their cute "fridge pack" in an efficient manner. When I punch out the little perforated hatch, I expect to be able to then neatly place the "fridge pack" in my fridge, where it will store and dispense cold cans of Dr. Pepper. Instead, I usually get this:

Dp_busted_4   Dp_busted_2_3

And if you don’t think that scene isn’t followed by much cursing from me, you think too much of me. I am genetically predisposed to become unreasonably agitated with inanimate objects and then speak to them as though they are capable of being shamed and intimidated by my rage. Among many other admirable qualities, I got this from my father, and my not-yet-five-year-old son is already demonstrating quite a knack for it himself. We’re very proud.

Anyway, back to the cans. It’s not like this code hasn’t been cracked. Take, for example, the folks over at the Coca Cola Co. When I punch one of their hatches, even if I’m not overly cautious, I get this:

Coke_3

Not only is this packaging superior in its durability, but the end that remains after the removal of the hatch is tall enough that all 12 cans can be stored this way. Dr. Pepper also fails in this regard since, even if you manage to perform the delicate surgery required to successfully extract the hatch, you’re left with a front end that only serves to prevent an avalanche of 11 or fewer cans. It’s a crime, really. In fact, here’s a look at the current state of my refrigerator:

Photo_070807_003

Yes, that is duct tape. On a Dr. Pepper package. Despite Aiden’s accurate contention that "Dad, duct tape is always awesome," I shouldn’t have to test that on my Dr. Pepper fridge pack. I mean, aren’t the daily threats to my security and the Texas heat enough? Must I also suffer this forever?

Banner credit

The new banner photo was taken by my friend Matt Book, once of Pennsylvania (where I knew him) and now of Ohio. That’s his boy Ryan hurling a rock into some body of water in Washington state. Once upon a time many moons ago, I asked folks to send me photos I could use for banners. When I was replacing The Plantersville Masterpiece today, I came upon the folder containing a few of those pictures, including this one. Thanks, Matt.